Foodservice by Design

Team members from Profitality-Labor Guru discuss how industrial engineering can be applied to the foodservice industry.


6 Design Ideas to Fight the Labor Shortage

Restaurant staffing has remained an issue since the start of the pandemic. A combination of increasing wages, unemployment checks and people trying to stay safe create a perfect storm for many restaurants, making it difficult to remain fully staffed with fully trained employees. To help foodservice operators alleviate their labor issues, here are 6 design and process-related tactics that can lead to doing more with less.

Ignacio GorisIgnacio Goris, Labor Guru1. Eliminate order entry

Depending on the concept, order entry and payment could take up to 30% of the work content to process one customer transaction. Implementing order terminal kiosks for limited-service restaurants represents a common option, but it’s one that requires significant investments in terms of capital and programming. The reward for implementing a well-developed app and online ordering platform includes possibly lowering the labor that goes into serving guests, increased customer loyalty and possibly higher check averages.

2. Design efficiencies into the takeout area

With the proliferation of carryout and delivery orders, a properly designed takeout area is essential because it can eliminate unnecessary steps. Incorporate everything that goes into packaging an order into a single station. A takeout station designed for optimum efficiency should include:

  • Expediting monitors that list and time all orders
  • Ticket and label printers to identify all items in the order
  • A well laid out packing area includes all containers, condiments, bags and drink holders
  • A pickup shelf adjacent to packing table minimizes steps and increases control of guest pickup. This shelf or area should also have easy access to curbside pickup if the operation offers this mode of service.

3. Rethink food preparation

Rethink the food preparation function as an extension of the cookline whenever possible. This means line cooks can prep ingredients before and after their shift, which will make it easier to provide staff with longer shifts. This may require an operator to break some longstanding paradigms, such as prep only occurs in the morning. Rethinking food prep means cookline staff will require access to an adjacent station that will include the proper equipment, such as a sink, a cutting board and refrigeration.
Further, identify the most time-consuming items and think of a better and/or faster way to prep them. One example: Use a food processor to cut and dice certain items instead of doing so by hand.

Another: When cutting and forming dough, consider rounders and presses, which could really have a big impact on efficiency. Also, look into acquiring certain ingredients already cut or prepped to order. This might raise food costs a tiny bit but doing so could be worth it depending on the labor savings. And one of my favorites: If you cut cherry tomatoes in half, there is a simple trick to cut the time by 80% ... This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The last prep item is process-related and it affects the workstations. Some operators over portion and the additional labor this requires often offsets any benefit. When appropriate, try to eliminate portioning by storing in bulk and portioning to order using portion control cups or scales. Also, operators that prep into the pans they are restocking and label every pan may end up spending more time labeling than prepping. Consider prepping in bulk where only one tub/pan receives a label and restock the line pan as necessary.

4. The silverware-rolling conundrum

Many full-service and fast-casual dining concepts roll their silverware. If this is your case, you are spending more than 500 hours a year if you are lucky. This means labor costs for rolling silverware can run from $3,500 to $5,000 a year. To try to reduce this cost, operators can design a host station that allows the staff here to roll silverware during their shift. Or operators can look for different ways to provide utensils and napkins that does not require rolling.

5. Self-service water refills

In full-service settings, filling water cups for every guest and their subsequent refills can take up to four minutes of labor per table. Consider delivering empty glasses and bottles filled with cold water to the tables when seating the guests. This tends comes across as a more upscale approach that gives guests the control in terms of when they serve themselves more water.

6. Washing those dollars away

Warewashing labor represents a significant line item on a restaurant’s P&L. Depending on the restaurant’s volume, consider upgrading to the next level in warewashing. For operations that wash by hand, consider a single rack dishwasher. If the operation has a single-rack unit, consider upgrading to a continuous machine. Doing so can reduce labor costs.
Dish room design is an often-overlooked factor when considering labor efficiency. The right dish room design will save on the scrapping, loading and unloading of dishes. The right equipment and process can reduce labor to get the plates/pans ready, such as pan liners, tumbling soaking equipment and recirculating grey water systems, which can significantly reduce scrubbing before you wash your dishes.

These are just a few areas that you can start looking into, but the important concept is to constantly challenge the status quo in the restaurant and try to find better, more efficient and, as a result, more economical way of delivering the best experience to your guest.